Northern uganda farmers suffer losses due to prolonged drought
By Denis Otim
The sweltering heat and prolonged dry spell in northern Uganda has left thousands of farmers and businessmen in losses, as their crops dry up and livestock starve and dehydrate to death.
Kitgum District Environment Officer, David Wany-Oyok said the people who fish in the river, and collect the water for other uses are the most affected.
According to Oyok, many livestock farmers are trekking long distances in search of water for their cattle.
“The river is a source of water for many livestock farmers in the district…they travel long distances to water their animals,” he said.
Ivan Ojok, a car washer along River Pager said since December 2017, the state of the river has forced him to buy tap water for his work, which is greatly reducing his profit margin.
“This river had never dried up completely. This is the first time we are witnessing this change; we are wondering what the problem could be,” he said.
Media reports indicate that in Karamoja sub-region, an unknown number of cattle have starved to death, forcing the nomadic pastoralists to cross into Lango sub-region with at least 10,000 head of cattle in search of pasture and water.
Oyok said the decrease in the level of Pager River is caused by environmental degradation due to cultivation along the river banks and subsequent siltation.
Although he is optimistic that water levels will rise when rain returns, he warned of constant and drastic drop in water levels in the coming years if farming along rivers continue.
Martin Anywar, the Kitgum district Forestry officer said since November last year, 50 percent of rivers and streams have dried up completely, while others have receded, due to high temperatures and absence of rain in the catchment areas where the rivers flow.
One of the affected rivers is Pager in Kitgum district, which originates from Karamoja region and flows through Agago and Kitgum, before joining river Limu in Palabek Gem Sub-county, Lamwo district.
He added that the drought which has persisted for three consecutive years, has also affected river Aringa that flows from Agoro sub-county in Lamwo district through Paloga and Amida sub-counties.
Anywar said places where the river has completely dried up are Kitgum Matidi, Omiya-Anyima and Lagoro sub-counties; very highly populated areas.
He attributed recent and persistent change in water levels to climate change.
“In the past we used to receive rain up to December, but now rain stops in October or November.”
“Even the first rain is delayed. These changes are devastating to water bodies in the region,” Anywar said.
According to weather forecast reports by Uganda National Meteorological Authority, districts in north and eastern Uganda will remain dry and hot till February. The affected districts are; Kitgum, Agago, Lamwo, Otuke, Pader, Alebtong, Kole, Amolatar, Kaberamaido and Dokolo.
In 2017 and 2017, Oyitino dam in Gulu district, where National Water and Sewerage Corporation [NWSC] pumps water for its clients completely dried up due to protracted dry spell, triggering severe water shortage.
Environmentalists say since 40 percent of rainfall in Uganda is influenced by wetlands, rivers, lakes and forests, such dry conditions are anticipated and should be a caution for all to conserve the environment.